ROAD TO KOREA/JAPAN
|France qualified automatically as defending
|Participations: (10) 1930, 1934,
1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1998
|Best placing: Winners 1998
|Topscorer: Just Fontaine,
detailed history information
|Thierry Henry has grown immensely
as a player since 1998 and is now one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. His
pace has left many defenders helpless and it will take something special to stop
him in this World Cup.
VERDICT: Through to KO stage
|The defending champions will go through
here otherwise it will be one of the greatest shocks in World Cup history.
SUPERB ATTACK, VULNERABLE DEFENCE
by Ruud Doevendans
France will have the problem, that for the first time in years it will have
to come out without their two real leaders: Didier Deschamps and Laurent
Blanc. The first has retired and became coach of Monaco, Blanc is playing in
what should be his last year at Manchester United, but quit the national
team after Euro 2000. Zinedine Zidane of course is the big gun, but he is
not the man that shows the way. Here is a chance for Patrick Vieira, but can
he do it at the highest level?
France, on top of that, is in Argentinaís part of the draw. Only one of them
can make it to the final, and itís very well possible that they will meet
early in the tournament. So itís not going to be easy for the French. Itís
not a one way trip to Yokohama. Letís take a look at the players, and how
they have done so far this year.
As goalkeeper, coach Roger Lemerre is still likely to go for in-and-out of
form Fabien Barthez. The baldheaded goalie has hardly ever disappointed in
the national team, but the first part of the current English season has been
a disaster for him. He made blunder after blunder, and seemed to have lost
all his confidence. Now heís doing better, but heís still not the Barthez he
was in 2000, when he saved France a couple of times. As a possible
replacement, I have been impressed by Lyon-keeper Gregory Coupet, but there
are other candidates as well to deputise should Barthez not fully regain his
Lilian Thuram, very experienced, is a certain starter at right-back,
although I wouldnít be too surprised if Lemerre uses the Guadeloupe-born as
a central defender. Stopper Desailly has hardly played and is far from his
best, and the World Cup 2002 could be a station too far for him. On top of
that, I have never been a great fan of Franck Leboeuf. At left-back Lizarazu
is still option number one, with Vincent Candela trying to get in the team.
He could as well play right-back.
Zidane of course is certain of a central role in midfield and can still do
the damage to any team. If he succeeds in playing another major role, he
must be considered among the greatest players of all time. Patrick Vieira,
most likely the new captain once Desailly quits the international scene,
stands in for Didier Deschamps. He is big, strong and he can play.
Tactically heís no Deschamps and he loses his temper still a bit too often,
but he has already made a big impact in the team. Emmanuel Petit is still in
contention for the second defensive spot in midfield, although heís not been
able to convince at Barcelona and Chelsea. Petit though has been a constant
factor for France during the years. Alongside Zidane, Arsenalís Robert Pires
will be the creative man, and I can see him as one of the big stars of the
tournament. Heís done great all year, can dribble and score. The man has
Up front, France has finally found the strikers they were looking for. Being
very young four years ago, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet were already
very promising, now they are worldstars. Both capable of scoring goals,
Henry more as the man in motion, Trezeguet more the sheer finisher of the
move that has been set up by others. Compare them to the strikers France
used in 1998: Guivarcíh, Diomede, Dugarry or even Djorkaeff. The new stars
make a big difference. They can both score more than six goals, which has
seemed to be the maximum of the last World Cups.
France should be able to win their group quite easily, although Denmark will
be no push-over. Senegal canít be a problem in the first match of the
tournament, and Uruguay is always hard to beat, but France should be able to
A BRIEF WORLD CUP HISTORY
by Jan Alsos
France has played a vital role in creating the World Cup. Its
founding father Jules Rimet was French and of course his country was represented in the very
first tournament in 1930. The team achieved little success in Uruguay apart from Lucien
Laurent who had the honour of scoring the very first goal in World Cup history. A first round
defeat against Austria four years later in Italy didnít give the French much hope of success in
their own tournament in 1938, but they went on to reach the quarterfinal where they lost to
eventual champions Italy.
France failed to make their mark on a World Cup until 1958 when the great generation of
Fontaine, Kopa and Vincent banged in 23 goals in six games in Sweden that summer. Just
Fontaine was topscorer on 13 goals, a record that stands to this day. Only Brazil were able
to beat the French who secured bronzemedals with a comfortable win over West Germany.
France disappeared into mediocrity for many years after this and only made the World Cup
twice over the next two decades - 1966 and 1978 where they were eliminated in the first
round on both occasions - before 1982 when another superb generation of French players
emerged. Platini, Tigana and Giresse formed arguably the best midfield in the world at the
time and reached the semifinals where West Germany won in one of the most dramatic
World Cup matches ever played and the first to be decided on penalties.
The two teams clashed again in another semifinal four years later in Mexico, but France were
unable to break down the German defence in a less exciting replay. France had a much
tougher route to that semifinal eliminating two three-times champions Italy and Brazil on their
way which could have been the reason to their lacklustre performance.
It would take twelve years before France played in a World Cup again. Failed qualification
campaigns in 1990 and 1994 hurt the game in France, but in 1998 the tournament was held
on home soil. It turned out be a huge success and France, in their tenth World Cup, won the
competition in style with a 3-0 victory over Brazil in the final. The cup was finally ďhomeĒ.
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